Yesterday as I drove home, I listened to the news conference where the bad news was confirmed: 20 children dead in the second deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history. I had heard whisps of news throughout the afternoon, but I had hopes that the news wouldn't be that bad. I clung to the word "unconfirmed."
But as it was confirmed, I cried. I cried all the way home. I thought about Psalm 23 and that line about fearing no evil. Oh, but I do fear evil.
I prayed for those families who will be having the worst Christmas ever. I prayed for us all.
I had a Christmas cookie exchange invitation; the event was last night, and I still had sugar cookies to decorate. What to do in the face of evil and tragedy? Remember the promise of the Scriptures, pray, and decorate cookies.
It seemed a bit profane. But then again, it seemed like a life affirming thing to do. I decorated cookies and went to exchange them. I lingered in a dining room that had more cookies in one place than I've ever seen in one place--even bakeries don't usually have such an assortment--plus we had almost no duplicates! About half the cookie exchangers had brought their children. We didn't talk about the tragedy that had happened at the elementary school.
We drank wine and ate festive appetizers and chose our cookies. What fun!
Again, it felt a bit disrespectful. And yet, it also felt important. Evil will make an attempt to creep/smash into our lives in all sorts of ways. How to defeat the darkness? With community, connection, sweetness, and light.
I got home, and my husband and I lit the candles of the Advent wreath. We read Isaiah 61, that ancient prophecy with its promise that God will bring beauty out of the ruins and new life out of the devastation.
And then, this morning, I saw that my piece had posted at Her Circle. Back in early December, when I wrote the piece about apocalypse and how to prepare for it, I hadn't realized, of course, that such a tragedy would occur. But this morning, it seems the perfect reading for such news: "The Protestant reformer Martin Luther says that the proper response to knowing that the world would end the next day is to plant a tree (referenced in N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church p. 209). That advice is as good today as it was 500 years ago. The theologian N. T. Wright would tell us when we need encouragement to do great and/or beautiful things, to remember that it all becomes part of the ultimate redemption of the world."
My piece talks about a variety of responses from social justice work to artistic creation. Plus it's got amazing pictures, and let me hasten to add that I only wrote the text.
I'm sure that we'll hear the usual talk about gun control. I wish that we would talk more about mental health issues and how to get people the care that they need. I also know that even if we had the best resources, it's tough to get disturbed people to take advantage of them.
These stories grab our attention because of the high body counts, but it's important to remember that we're not likely to be a victim in this kind of scenario. One-on-one gun violence is much more common. But I'm not convinced that changes in gun control laws would change those statistics. We have tighter gun control laws than we did in the 1970's and 1980's, but the violence seems worse. However, it might be because of media saturation. I haven't looked up actual statistics.
In my younger years, I might have protested. I might have written letters to legislators. In what I hope are my middle years, I'll decorate cookies and smile at the antics of children who spent the night sneaking cookies off the dining room table. I'll say prayers and write posts like this one at my theology blog, posts which I hope will give comfort to those who are frightened. I'll make a seafood stew for my quilter friends who will gather at my house later today. And I'll stitch baby quilts which the women's group at my church will give to indigent mothers.
I will fear evil, but I won't let that fear cripple me. I will devote myself each and every day to creating light in the darkness. I will trust the Advent news that redemption is on its way, that the darkness will not overcome the light forever.